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Gordon County Schools announces plans for modified graduation ceremonies

Gordon County Schools will host two modified graduation ceremonies for its two high schools, the school system announced recently.

Officials said in a member released they while they realize there is no replacement for the pomp and circumstance that traditionally accompanies a graduation ceremony, Gordon County Schools has created a plan to offer the best, safest solution for an in-person graduation experience for the Class of 2020.

“Understanding there are restrictions that must be followed, the plan includes the opportunity for each graduate alongside their closest family/friends to participate in a modified ceremony to receive his/her diploma,” said GCS Director of Communications Amy Parker. “GCS requests that the community respect social distancing and constraints on gatherings that have been approved allowing us to host this graduation ceremony. Should health and safety guidelines change prior to the ceremony, we may modify our plan to a more traditional ceremony.”

Gordon Central High School’s graduation will take place Friday, June 26, at 8 p.m. at GCHS Stadium, while Sonoraville High School’s ceremony will take place Saturday, June 27, at 9 a.m. at SHS Stadium.

Details include:

♦ Modified ceremonies will begin at the times stated above. Graduates will be assigned staggered arrival times to allow for social distancing and reduce the number of people at the facility at any given time.

♦ The Gordon County Sheriff’s Office will provide support to ensure the safety and security of attendees and assist as accommodations are made for distancing and health guidelines.

♦ Graduates will be allowed to bring no more than 10 family/friends to attend with them. The graduate and his/her guests must arrive at the check-in station together to be admitted as a group at the assigned time. The group will be admitted only when all guests are with the graduate. No one may join a group after the group enters the stadium. The group must remain together for the duration of the ceremony.

♦ Graduates and their guests will be lined up along the track complying with social distancing between groups and advance to the stage area as each graduate’s name is called. There will be no seating as the line should continuously move forward; however, seating for those who are unable to stand or have special needs will be provided a waiting area.

♦ When the graduate approaches the stage on the field, the guests with that graduate will be directly in front of the stage for the presentation of that graduate’s diploma.

♦ After receiving the diploma, the turning of the tassel, and leaving the stage, the graduate will rejoin family/friends to exit the field and continue the celebration off campus. All groups must promptly exit the field and stadium.

♦ No one will be allowed to congregate on the field, in the stadium, or in the parking lots.

♦ Traditional ceremonial speeches will be pre-recorded and made available in the days prior to the event.

♦ Programs will be available digitally and suitable for printing by individuals.

♦ After graduation, each school will provide the graduates with a digital copy of the entire ceremony including speeches and all diploma presentations as a keepsake.

♦ Both ceremonies will be live streamed by each school.

Graduates will be notified by their school as to the specifics for their respective ceremonies.

Speaker at Sunday's protest: Passion invokes change

Several of the protesters in front of the Gordon County courthouse on Sunday live-streamed an impassioned speech from a local business leader as he challenged them to take the attention they’ve garnered over the last few weeks and turn it into action.

“I’m never going to tell you to stop what you’re doing. This passion right here, this passion is what you need to invoke change,” said Adrian Lyles, president of Lyles Wealth Management. “This passion that you have right now, don’t let anybody steal it from you. Stand out here with your signs and say what you want to say, but know what you want to say, because this is how we’re going to make a change: together. We are only going to do this together.”

Lyles spoke for more than 20 minutes about his own experiences and those of his family and how he fought his way to success. His great-grandfather was born a slave on a plantation, but now his family owns the land where that plantation stood. Still, he said, there aren’t always equal opportunities for every person because of issues of race and class.

“How do we get that? How do we get that for those people who have been disenfranchised? How do we get that same level of opportunity for those people who do not know what lays before them? We got to dispel the myths, we have to write off those things that we have been told and come together and scream as loud as we can from the mountaintops that we are one people,” said Lyles.

He went on to say that he’s received the same mistreatment as other people of color, that he’s been harassed and called racial slurs, that he’s watched as people crossed the street or clutched their purses tighter as he walked by. He said the ongoing protests around the country and the world have helped bring that sort of thing to the forefront.

“Now we are aware. You people have done a phenomenal job of making people aware of the issues. Now we have to talk about solutions,” said Lyles. “The solutions will be unity.”

He went on to challenge the protesters to maintain their message but to also take action to improve their community.

In that same line of thought, Sean Whorton, one of the protest organizers in Calhoun, passed around a signup sheet on Sunday to collect the names and social media details of those assembled.

Whorton said the goal is to organize a community round table-type of event with local officials, leaders and elected representatives, so that the issues the protests center on can be discussed publicly with those in a position to affect change. He also wants to make sure those raising their voices are registered to vote, and that they reach out to their own social circles to promote voting.

“We’re trying to move, we’re trying to get people to jump on board. If you truly believe all lives matter, then help support the people who don’t believe their lives matter,” Whorton said.

He shared that he’s personally heard from several prominent leaders in the community that are proud of the protest efforts and would like to join the movement, but they worry about potential repercussions from their employers or on their businesses.

One local coach, Whorton said, told him he was proud to see several of the players he’s coached taking part in the protests and that he’d be there too, but he worries how school officials would react or whether his participation would affect sponsorships for his team.

Whorton said another well know community leader said something similar, telling Whorton he’s frustrated that he still has to worry about the community’s reaction to something that shouldn’t be controversial, such as standing up for equal rights.

Whorton hopes that those who are afraid to join the protest effort will be willing to sit down with members of the community and talk about the issues in Calhoun and Gordon County.

“Is this racism or placism?” he asked. “Is that why you’re not here? I just want to learn what’s on their minds.”

Whorton emphasized that the protests are not politically motivated, that wanting equality for all people shouldn’t be considered a political topic. He also said he appreciates those who honk their vehicle horn and hold up a fist as they drive by, but he invites them to stop and join the effort.

“Now we’re not just talking about it, we’re taking action,” he said.

New AdventHealth urgent care clinic open at Calhoun High School

AdventHealth Medical Group Urgent Care Calhoun City Schools is now open and accepting patients. Located at 101 Yellow Jacket Drive, just north of Calhoun High School’s Phil Reeve Stadium, the clinic will be open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and during Friday night home football games.

Offered services include flu shots, treatment for workplace injuries, occupational medicine, Department of Transportation physicals, sports physicals and treatment for acute illnesses and injuries such as sore throat, colds, pneumonia, ear aches, stomach aches, sprains, allergies, asthma, tendinitis, broken bones, skin conditions and flu, among others.

Students will have access to these services throughout the school day with the permission of a parent, allowing them to receive the care they need without missing class. Student athletes and fans will have access to the clinic during games, should the need for medical attention arise. The community will also have full access to the clinic.

“We are excited that our community, students and teachers now have access to this urgent care location at Calhoun City Schools,” said Karen Steely, chief operating officer of AdventHealth Gordon. “Our patients can rely on our team to provide them with quick and compassionate urgent care.”

Beyond medical services, the clinic will also serve as a learning environment for students in the healthcare pathway at the Calhoun College and Career Academy. Students enrolled in the school’s work-based learning program will be given the opportunity to work shifts at the clinic rather than at the hospital, limiting the need for off-campus travel. Dual enrollment students completing a C.N.A. Program will also be offered the opportunity to complete necessary clinical hours at the clinic.

A future goal for the clinic, according to CHS Principal Peter Coombe, would be to work out a deal with local pharmacies so that prescriptions could be filled and delivered to the clinic so that parents could pick them up for their children at the same time that their children were picked up from school.

“We will take insurance and we will never deny treatment for the uninsured, but we will also help kids get insurance and learn about insurance options if they are currently uninsured,” he said. “We want them to know what they qualify for.”

The clinic itself hosts multiple exam rooms, a storage room, a utility room, an x-ray room, R.N. station, two bathrooms, a reception and check-in area, public and student-only entrances, and a separate office. The entire facility is handicap accessible.

The site itself was donated by the Calhoun Rotary Club and construction, which began back in February, was funded by a generous gift from the family of state representative John Meadow, as well as the Milton Ratner Foundation.

Both Eddie Reeves, chairman of the Board of Education for Calhoun City Schools, and CCS Superintendent Michele Taylor thanked the donors for their support of local students, the community and education.

“Dr. Peter Coombe, high school principal and CEO of our College and Career Academy, has developed a plan to allow our students in the health sciences pathway to get some hands-on experiences working in the new health clinic,” said Taylor. “This is certainly a great opportunity for students and one that will provide much needed on-site medical support for all. Thank you AdventHealth, Calhoun Rotary Club, the Ratner Foundation and the John Meadows family!”

AdventHealth Medical Group Urgent Care Calhoun City Schools is accepting new patients. Walk-ins and scheduled appointments are welcome. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 706-879-6405.

COVID-19 lawsuit protections move in Georgia Senate

Legislation aimed at shielding businesses and medical providers from lawsuits brought by persons who contract coronavirus has cleared a key hurdle in the Georgia Senate.

The COVID-19 legal liability measures were tacked onto a bill whose original intent was to create a specialty license plate for the Georgia Tennis Foundation that would read, “Play Tennis!”

Called the “Georgia Pandemic Business Immunity Act,” the measure would prevent lawsuits from being filed in Georgia against a broad range of groups by people who claim to have contracted coronavirus on premises that those groups manage or own.

Groups affected by the bill would run the gamut from restaurants and other businesses to state and local governments, and health-care providers including doctors, dentists, psychologists, therapists, social workers and athletic trainers.

The legislation comes as Gordon has seen a recent uptick in the number of cases reported. On Monday, June 15, the Department of Public Health reported 256 confirmed cases, 18 deaths and 37 hospitalizations among Gordon County residents.

That represents 93 new confirmed cases reported since June 1. During that same two-week period, two new deaths and four new hospitalizations were reported. The totals on June 1 were 163 cases, 16 deaths and 33 hospitalizations.

On May 16, Gordon’s totals included 125 cases, 15 deaths and 30 hospitalizations, which means only 33 news cases, one new death and three new hospitalizations were reported during the last two weeks of May.

The DPG releases data daily at 3 p.m. on its website:

Sen. John Albers, who brought the Georgia Pandemic Business Immunity Act, said he drafted it in recent weeks alongside representatives from local chambers of commerce, business associations and trial attorneys.

The aim is to calm fears from business owners and others that they could face an avalanche of litigation in the coming months as Georgia’s economy continues reopening, Albers said.

“This legislation will allow our business community to start to return to normalcy and provide services to Georgians without fear of needless litigation, while still ensuring that legitimate legal action is possible,” said Albers, R-Roswell.

Groups could still face lawsuits if they intentionally place persons at risk of contracting coronavirus or show gross negligence in following social distancing and sanitizing guidelines ordered by the governor.

The immunity protections would take effect from the start of Gov. Brian Kemp’s public health emergency declaration in late March to two years after the last executive order that the governor issues. The state’s public health emergency is currently still in effect.

The measure drew support from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the Senate. He called it “thoughtful legislation that ensures consumers are protected and encourages businesses to reopen – without the worry of lawsuits hanging over their heads.”

In a surprise move, the liability measure was added Monday during a Senate Public Safety Committee hearing on the tennis specialty license plate measure, House Bill 216.

Albers, who chairs the committee, said that was done to speed through passage of an important measure during the hectic resumption of the 2020 legislative session this week.

The underlying bill’s sponsor, Rep. Teri Anulewicz, said she was caught off guard by the move by Albers and given short notice ahead of Monday’s meeting.

“In (Georgia political) vernacular, this is known as stripping the bill,” said Anulewicz, D-Smyrna. “I had 30 minutes notice. My opinion on the matter was of no relevance to the committee.”

The overhauled bill passed by a 5-3 vote out of committee, with the committee’s three Democratic members voting in opposition. They included Sens. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale; Harold Jones II, D-Augusta; and Tonya Anderson, D-Lithonia.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote. If passed, it would then head back to the House for a final floor vote.

Daniel Bell of the Calhoun Time and Beau Evans of Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.

By Noah Caldwell, a student at Ashworth Middle School.

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